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Announcing the winners of our 2020 Poems in Translation Contest in partnership with the Academy of American Poets. Read more.
from the July 2007 issue


Greetings, noble stranger! Your appearance is unfamiliar, as if you were not from these parts. Are you perhaps newly arrived from the distant lands of the North?

My name is Akiko. What glorious name do you bear? Type it and press "enter" and Akiko will unlock her door.

We are delighted, QWERTY, that you have called into our site, forgotten here amid the mountains of ancient Japan. We are Akiko and the little monkey Mao. If you look down at the lower left corner of the screen, you will see two small spots of yellow. Those are his little eyes. Little monkey Mao is not hiding because he finds you repellent, QWERTY. He appreciates how important your visit is for us. It is just that he needs time to get used to someone new. He is a very reticent creature, but his spirit is astonishingly bold and inquisitive. Perhaps it might seem absurd to you that Akiko should speak about a mere monkey in this way, but she has no other friends here apart from Mao.

Perhaps you will become my friend, QWERTY? Ah, now that this hope has been kindled in Akiko's heart, the world around is suddenly transformed, it glows with all the colors of the rainbow, as if a bright festival has just begun . . .

Akiko has noticed the way you look at her slim, delicate figure in its silk kimono that is the color of leaves in autumn. Your immodest glances bring an ardent bloom to Akiko's cheeks.

No, no, QWERTY, do not even bring the cursor close. As yet you may only look at Akiko's face, blazing with shame. Akiko is a girl with strict rules. If you wish to see everything else, subscribe to our site. Do you see the door with the word "members"? When you become a member, QWERTY, you will pass through that door at will, directly into Akiko's secret chambers. But for now you need this wicket gate with the notice "instant access."

Thank you, QWERTY, for deciding to avail yourself of our "instant access" service. We accept all leading credit cards. You may become a temporary member for a month for only $9.99. But for a mere $24.99 you will become a full member for a whole year.

Akiko sees that you are an experienced samurai, QWERTY. You have opened the chest with the sign "terms and conditions" that stands between the statuette of the goddess Canon and the bundle of reed arrows. By no means do all who come to visit us do that . . . Yes, that is correct. For your convenience the temporary membership will be renewed automatically and $9.99 will be debited from your account every month . . .

No, we do not call it permanent membership. We call it temporary. For what can possibly be called permanent in a world where everything is like the dew and the clouds? Of course, QWERTY, full membership is much better. But that means it is more expensive. And remember that credit card fraud is a criminal offense . . . No, no, we are simply obliged to remind you. We trust you. And you can trust us. Have no fear that the hostile and the envious will discover our relationship. Little monkey Mao and I know how to keep secrets. The moneychangers at your bank will not suspect a thing when they receive a request for payment from ""

Thank you, QWERTY, for deciding to choose the full membership for $24.99, which for your convenience will not be automatically renewed. As soon as your credit information has been verified you will receive a message from us by special post, brought to you by a crane. Yes, QWERTY, that is what we call "instant access." A perfectly good name for it. All earthly life is but an instant, merely a summer dream of the moon reflected in a pond while the Kasivagi bird sings.

Greetings, QWERTY. Mao and I remember you well, and we remember your IP address, You have entered through the door with the word "members," which means that the white crane has already brought you a letter with a secret word. So now you are a full member here--what a powerful, fresh, exciting feeling that must be! Yes, five days is a long time to wait, QWERTY, but we did mention that the crane post might be delayed if you gave an address at a free server like Yahoo or Hotmail. Those are the very places where crooks who give false credit card information make their nests. In fact, all things considered, you should be grateful that you received a letter with a secret word at all.

Oh but we did warn you! Once you went rummaging in the "terms and conditions" chest, QWERTY, you should have paid careful attention to what it says in the small print on page twelve. But what point is there in arguing about it now when the moment of joy is so near? Cast away these thoughts, QWERTY, and lend an ear to nature's evening soundtrack. Is the world not beautiful? Thin ribbons of clouds drifting across the pale sky, the wind murmuring in the leaves, the crickets singing their lament in the grass. Does it not touch your heart?

You are clicking the mouse on Akiko's secret place, QWERTY--what self-assurance! Clearly you are one of those people who know exactly what they want. So certain of yourself. And no wonder. Such a courtly and refined suitor has surely never been rebuffed at any porn site. Akiko is flustered, she lowers her eyes and withdraws to the inner chambers. So great is Akiko's agitation that she forgets to slide the partition shut behind her. She shudders slightly as the cursor slides across her slim, delicate figure. Did you notice, QWERTY, that the arrow of the cursor becomes a hand when it touches the sash of the silk kimono that is the color of leaves in autumn? The flame of the lamp is reflected in Akiko's enigmatic eyes. Akiko is going to tell you her story, QWERTY.

In ancient times the powerful ruler of the Ise province had three daughters. The eldest . . . What? Yes, you can. In the top right hand corner there is a button: "skip story." The button with a wine glass? That is in case you would like to buy some cherry liqueur for the little monkey Mao.

Oh . . . QWERTY, what are you doing? Now Akiko is wearing nothing but her slip. Make just one more click of the mouse and you will undress her completely. Akiko is feeling giddy with excitement: with your permission, she will lie down on the rice straw mats. Ah . . . Oh! You have not left a single scrap of clothing on her, QWERTY. Do you like the immature forms of her adolescent body? No, QWERTY, you cannot open them wider. Do not waste your time clicking. In this version you will not see her secret place. Akiko is too bashful.

You ask Akiko how you should caress her delicate body? Your amorous heart must prompt you there. You can choose any of the objects that you see in the room. Any, that is, on which the cursor turns into a hand. Click on it with the mouse to take hold of it. The most important thing of all for you is that string of beads on the wall. Look at it every now and then. When you start playing with Akiko, the beads will change color one by one. The more green beads there are, the more welcome Akiko finds your caresses. And the more red beads there are, the less well you understand her secret thoughts.

What don't you understand? Haven't you ever watched the business news? When share prices fall, the red arrow points down, when share prices rise, the green arrow points up. It's exactly the same here. Remember, Sweetie, Akiko is expecting a small economic miracle from you. Fondle her right and she will go "Oooooh" for you. But if Akiko goes "Ti-Ti-Ti" it means that you're fondling her wrong. When all the beads turn green, QWERTY, you'll hear a cry filled with ecstatic rapture: "Oohaah!" which Akiko will utter for you as a bonus.

Aha, you have chosen the "bat" fan--a memento of last summer. Do you wish to use it to tease Akiko's small brown nipples that look like the pointed arrowheads of love? Ti-Ti-Ti. Keep looking at the beads. There are three red beads already. Ti-Ti-Ti. Now there are six. Think. What do normal people use a fan for? That's right! To fan themselves. Or to fan someone else. Where? Everywhere. Yes, there too. Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti. No, QWERTY, when Akiko goes "Ti-Ti-Ti" after several "Oooh's" it means you have to think of something else, you're in danger of boring her. Stay alert, don't fall asleep. You need to collect points, and when Akiko goes "Ti-Ti-Ti" you lose them. Try fanning her somewhere else. Ti-Ti-Ti! Ti-Ti-Ti! Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti! Ti-Ti-Ti!

That's enough. Put the fan down. I'm bored with it. Let's try something else ... The hairpin? I don't know, QWERTY, try. You want to run it across the shadowy hollows of her armpits? Ti-Ti-Ti! Perhaps to prick the dark skin of her belly gently? Ti-Ti-Ti! To touch the secret place that is concealed by the elegant curve of her raised hip? Ti-Ti-Ti! To tickle her heel that is the color of a ripe peach? Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti! A brush for writing with ink? No doubt you wish to compose a poem for Akiko? Oh, I see. Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Well, who could have expected that? One piece of advice, QWERTY. If you dip the brush into the sake bottle, you'll get twice as many points for each stroke . . . But don't drop the brush into the bottle . . .

It takes a long time to load, you say? That's little monkey Mao sitting on the wires, it's a habit of his. Would you like to buy him some cherry liqueur, QWERTY? Mao, get down. Come here, you'll get something in a moment. What? No, he won't drink sake from the bottle. Mao, come here and play with the "bat" fan. So, where did we get to? The brush for ink? Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti! An old letter from someone who was once dear to one's heart? Ti-Ti-Ti! A long ginseng root? Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti! Healing Kusudama balls decorated with tassels of bright-colored threads? Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti! A stuffed nightingale? Ti-Ti-Ti! A small "ebosy" hat? Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Ti-Ti-Ti! A green paper package tied to a fir tree branch? Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! QWERTY, are you sure you don't want to order cherry liqueur for little monkey Mao? I see. Oooh! Oooh!! Oooh!!! Oohaah!!!!

How happy Akiko would be if morning were never to come! But already the moon is veiled by the dawn mist and the hour of parting draws near. How agonizingly long the day will be without you, QWERTY!

Yes, that's it . . . What did you expect? No, the secret place can only be accessed on the Gold level. From this day on, QWERTY, every now and then the spring breeze will open a window on your desktop with the message "Akiko hardcore! Icons weep but peep!" The photo of the secret place that you will see there is a real screen-shot from the hard-core version. If the window bothers you, simply close it and carry on working. No, you can't see it right now. For that you need Gold Membership and you have only ordinary full membership. What's that? It was all explained in the small print of the "terms and conditions" scroll in the chest on page seventeen.

Don't be upset, QWERTY, Akiko felt happy in your strong, skillful hands and she will tell you how you can stay with her for longer. To obtain access to the hard-core version, you can upgrade your ordinary membership to Gold for only $14.99. You don't have to enter your credit card number again–we have it in our database now. All you need to do is click on the "one-click-purchase" icon and a whole world of unforgettable delights will be revealed to you. And you can buy cherry liqueur for little monkey Mao in exactly the same way, with a single click. You're only one click away from Gold membership now, QWERTY! A Gold Member can enjoy two full-screen views of Akiko's secret place. In the hardcore version you'll find new instruments of ecstasy, including our cult-status multi-speed vibrator. And in addition, for Gold members, instead of "Oooh" Akiko goes "Ooohaaah!" from the very beginning. And then there will be "AaaahooohAAAAH!" for the bonus. So think it over, QWERTY. Akiko will be waiting.

Greetings, QWERTY, little monkey Mao and I remember you well. IP address Mastercard 5101 2486 0000 4051, cvc 2-910, property of Alpha Bank, number 11 Masha Poryvaeva Street. Do you happen to know who this Masha Poryvaeva is, QWERTY? If a girl has an entire street, she must surely have delighted the very Shogun himself. Or perhaps she comes of old noble lineage? One even feels a little envious. As the poet said: "why are the lavish gifts of the sea for her alone?"

Very well then, back to business. In ancient times, the mighty ruler of a vast province . . . What? Skip it again? Why don't you ever want to listen to me, QWERTY? All right, as you wish. Akiko is very glad that you have become a Gold Member of our site hidden away in the mountains of ancient Japan. Your visit is a great honor for a poor girl. It rarely happens that a noble lord like you appears in our remote backwoods. Perhaps you will order some cherry liqueur for little monkey Mao? I see, then let us move on. Akiko is excited, QWERTY. Although this young girl is too bashful and shamefaced to admit it, she is happy that she will be alone with you. And so let us quickly enter the grotto of delights, where you will give free rein to your unbridled desires. Even if Akiko so wished, she could not oppose your will, oh mighty QWERTY. But she remembers well how delightful are your caresses.

Yes, that's the grotto of delights. It's not the same at all! There were rice straw mats there and here there is a broken piece of a mast. The walls were green there, and here they are yellow. There was a portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi there, and here there is a portrait of Tokugawa Ieyasu. What? Listen, QWERTY, you're in the same position you were in last time too. But you don't hear me complaining.

How suspicious you've become, QWERTY. No one's cheating you. You'll get to see the secret place, it's just that right now you're on view "A." Switch to view "B." It's very simple. Click with the mouse on Akiko's delicate childish thighs and you'll see what you find so fascinating. There . . . What do you think? Well?

I just don't understand you, QWERTY. If it's not one thing, it's another. Yes, it's the same view as in the promo. Yes, that's specially so that all the boring creeps can't say they weren't shown what they were promised. If you want to see Akiko's face, go back to the general view. That's right. And to see Akiko's secret place, click on her delicate, childish thighs. Just wait a moment while it loads, it can't be helped. It's not my fault your cable can't handle it. No, you can't see both at the same time. Ti-Ti-Ti! No Akiko's not laughing at you, she's going "Ti-Ti-Ti" at you. Listen, QWERTY, where have you ever seen them both at once? What do you mean, it could be anyone's? Who else's could it be, silly, when there's only you and Akiko here?

What?! Yes, the same as before. Do you see the beads on the wall? Do I have to remind you? What? What sledgehammer? That's our cult-status multi-speed vibrator. Ti-Ti-Ti! Akiko already told you: Ti-Ti-Ti! The vibrator only works in views "B" and "C." Yes, that's correct. In this view it doesn't work, but you can see it. And in that view you can't see it, but it works. The pink heart changes the speeds. No one's cheated you, QWERTY. You'll get your second view of the secret place. To switch to view "C" click the mouse on the other side of Akiko's slim, childish thighs. There . . . What?! You don't like that either? What do you mean, it's the same photo upside down? Listen, QWERTY, when you turn your Masha Poryvaeva over from her back on to her front, does she sprout something different between her legs? Perhaps you just don't like the way the world is, QWERTY?

Ti-Ti-Ti! Yes, "Ti-Ti-Ti!" How should I know, think about it. Try changing the speed. Why? All three speeds work. Akiko knows what she's saying when she tells you they work. Of course you can't see anything. What did you expect to see, QWERTY? Can you tell the difference between 100 Hz and 300 Hz just by looking? Put it in first. Do you hear that "Chug-chug-chug-chug-chug?" You do. Now try second. Do you hear that "Chugalug-chugalug-chugalug?" Now third. Do you hear that "Chrrrrrrrr"? Everything's working. Stop bellyaching and try pleasuring your Akiko a bit instead. Ti-Ti-Ti! Ti-Ti-Ti! Ti-Ti-Ti! Yes, it's "Ti-Ti-Ti!" On all three speeds. How should I know? Maybe you're tapping away at the wrong spot . . . Oooh-Aaah! Oooh-Aaah! Oooh-Aaah! Well? Didn't you hear me go "Oooh-Aaah?" So why ask if I like it or not? That's what I go "Ooh-Aaah" for, so you won't go asking silly questions.

No, just leave it stuck in there. Don't worry, it won't fall out. Think, QWERTY, think. Don't you get the feeling that the most important thing is missing? Go back to the main view, there are all sorts of bits and pieces there. Hair tongs? Ti-Ti-Ti! An oval roasting pan with hot embers? Oh, how fiery you are today! A rice ball? Ti-Ti-Ti! A portrait of Tokugawa Ieyasu? Are you absolutely nuts? Oohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ah, my most excellent QWERTY . . . Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ti-Ti-Ti! You see, QWERTY, Akiko didn't even know about that herself. Don't be afraid to experiment. What you need must be somewhere close at hand. Samurai's armor? Ti-Ti-Ti! A bottle of sake? Well… You know what, that sounds interesting. It won't move? Little monkey Mao must be squatting on the wires again. He'll get off in a moment.

What's making you so bashful, QWERTY . . . Yes, it's a big bottle, so what? That's the way we delicate young girls really like it. That's it . . . That's it . . . No, it'll be awkward for you like that. Akiko knows what's she's saying when she says it will be awkward like that. What kind of mouse mat have you got? No, it's too small. Clear everything off the table, so that nothing gets in the way of your arm. You need an empty square, at least one meter from corner to corner--to swing the mouse across. That's right. Go on . . . Again. Why are you stopping? Don't you stop! And faster, faster . . . Ooohaah! You've fallen asleep again . . . QWERTY, don't slow down. You lose points that way . . . Ooohaah! Oooha . . . Didn't Akiko tell you, don't go to sleep! That's right, one "Ooohaah!" for ten strokes. What did you expect? Ten "Ooohaah's" for one stroke? Then you should have subscribed to the Platinum membership. Your hand's tired? You have to suffer for your happiness. Come on, come on, stop sniveling . . . Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Leave the mouse button alone. What did Akiko just say? Don't press on the mouse, or you'll just keep switching from one view to the other. You lose points for that, QWERTY. And hold the bottle by the very bottom, then you'll earn more points for each stroke Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Oohaah! That's it . . . Oohaah! Oooh . . .

Come on, wake up. What's that you say? What? But that is cybersex--when you give my mouse manual stimulation. You think it's your mouse? Whatever you say, darling. I want my mouse to be yours as often as possible too. But all you do is just grumble all the time. Always grumbling. What is it you want from life anyway?

Akiko has the feeling, QWERTY, that you don't really like this world much, so you always find fault with everything . . . You what? What? What? Listen, don't you start that, okay? What? What did you say? Right then, switch to view "A" and look me in the eyes. That's it . . .

Say that again. You say it's sordid? You've had enough of jerking off the mouse? Just what do you do with your life anyway, QWERTY? It's none of my business? Do you want Akiko to tell you what you do with your life? Every day from morning till night you jerk off the black bug-eyed Franklin on the hundred bucks note. Because there are no other options. You all do it, though none of you even realize that you're giving him manual stimulation, because there's nothing under his cravat apart from that black oval. At least not since 1972, when they came off the gold standard. The only thing you all do is twiddle something long that moves fast with your hands while you gaze into each other's eyes with a mysterious expression. And you don't find that sordid, QWERTY? But with Akiko it's sordid, right? Only Franklin doesn't go "Ooohaah!" for you, does he? Otherwise they'd write about you in Forbes magazine. But they don't write about you, QWERTY. Far from it, in fact. You could sweat blood and Franklin wouldn't even give you a glance. He doesn't even know that you're jerking away on something for him down under his black oval, you got that? And when you get sucked in--yes, QWERTY, even though there hasn't been anything behind the black oval since 1972, one day that oval is going to suck you in and swallow you up, shit, shoes and all--the black Franklin won't even go "Ti-Ti-Ti" for you to say good-bye, he'll just carry on gazing haughtily into the distance with his lips pursed. You got that?

So he thinks it's sordid! He's tired of jerking off the mouse. If you're so demanding, QWERTY, go make something of your life and buy yourself $15,000 worth of cyberoptics. Then when you look at the mouse, you'll see your own ti-ti-ti instead. And for another fifteen grand you can put a synchronized vibro-stimulator with heating on your ti-ti-ti. Then when you start steering the mouse over the table you'll have the complete illusion that you're holding your own ti-ti-ti in real time. But for that you have to get the black Franklin to do at least one tiny "Ooh!" for you. Only he doesn't do it, does he? And he's not ever likely to. Because to be absolutely honest, QWERTY, you were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. So be grateful that at least you have a photo on the screen and a mouse in your hand. What else do you expect for your hundred bucks?

Yes, a hundred bucks. Okay, let's do the math. $24.99 for an ordinary membership. $14.99 for an upgrade to Gold. And for $59.99 we subscribed you to the site "Prince Genji and the Naughty Little Boys" at a special discount. What do you mean why? We do it automatically, for the convenience of all those who have Gold membership. But bear in mind that you'll only have access at a discount until your Gold membership is automatically renewed for the first time. And after that . . . What? No, you didn't get it, QWERTY. It's the full membership that's not renewed automatically. The Gold membership is renewed automatically. Platinum membership, on the other hand, is not renewed automatically . . .

Now what? So sue! Go on, lodge a complaint. It was all in the "Terms and Conditions," page twenty-one, second paragraph from the top. Gold members get a 50% discount off current subscription prices for special theme sites in accordance with their personal preferences. What? Oh, how could you say such an awful thing, QWERTY, after all that has happened between us? Little monkey Mao will explain everything to you. Akiko's going to cry . . .

So what's not clear, my man? Yes, little monkey Mao. Correct, that's why we subscribed you for only $59.99. The regular price is $119.99, you can visit and check for yourself. How do we know about your preferences? Just take a look at your "recently viewed sites," QWERTY. What site did you visit between "Russian Order" and the "Anti-Zionist Action Union"? "Hot Asian Boys" wasn't it? You see! So that's why we subscribed you to "Prince Genji." Don't worry. It's all drawings on that site. No problems with the law--you know, artist's fantasy. But you could have problems with "Hot Asian Boys," QWERTY. Oh, you visited by accident? It happens. Sure it does, sure. But don't let it upset you, QWERTY. You're not the only pedophile in the world. What kind of pedophile are you? You really want to know? We'll tell you exactly what sort. You're an intrauterine pedophile, QWERTY. That's a pedophile who wants to do it to a little baby that's still inside mummy's tummy . . . What's that? Just what are we supposed to think in the Fifth Department, when you switch from "Hot Asian Boys" to "Pregnant Latino Teens" and from "Pregnant Latino Teens" back to "Hot Asian Boys"? This is what we think: you're an intrauterine pedophile from an Islamic jihad group. Why? Who was it bookmarked the "" site? You were downloading Chechen proverbs? Wanted to have a laugh, did you? Aha. I'll give you a laugh. You'll laugh for real all right, you bastard. There are plenty laughing already, now you'll be laughing with them. Aha. So he thinks it's sordid! You think we don't know what's behind that name, QWERTY? IP address Mastercard 5101 2486 0000 4051? Think we can't find out? Something tells us, QWERTY, that Masha Poryvaeva will spill the beans soon enough . . . he thinks it's sordid! Shitting yourself, are you? Get down! Get up! Down! Up! Down! Up! Down! Up! Got the point now? Get down! Up! Think you've really got it? And now, take that bottle, you bastard, and get back at the double to view "B" with the close-up of the secret. At the double, now speaking! Now apologize to Akiko . . . He thinks it's sordid!

Mao tells me you understand everything now, QWERTY? Why, you can talk. Sometimes. Quietly and to the point. To the point means when it's necessary. So, for instance, when Akiko goes "Oohaah!" for you, you can reply quietly "Aaah-Aaah." Only make sure you don't say "Allah": with a record as long yours, you'll never buy your way out then. Even little monkey Mao won't help you then. You got that? Okay? And keep moving that mouse, move it, don't fall asleep. You've got to collect points, not just sit there on your ass. Life is movement. Faster. Faster than that. You should value what you've got, QWERTY, because in Africa, especially in some parts of equatorial Africa, people can only dream about this. Ooohaah! Doesn't like the way the world is, doesn't he? You've no idea how lucky you were to find me. Ooohaah! Ooohaah! That's why you're always driveling off the point. Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! And don't go thinking you're any cleverer than all the rest, got that? You ought to realize you're more stupid than them, because they've got more money. Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! But if you fancy something a bit special, a little bit of dreaming, just to feed your imagination, we don't mind that. Just keep it quiet and make sure we know about it, okay? Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Wait till we make you a Platinum Member, we'll give you your own personal number and you can have any photos you like in your squalid little den. Ooohaah! Ooohaah! What's that, QWERTY? You don't need it, you say? But that's just when it gets to the really interesting part--anal sex! We'll subscribe you, we will, don't you worry, we'll even give you a discount. Only you have to get it through your head how to behave in this life. What you can say and when, and what you can't say. Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! And if you don't get it, that's where karaoke comes in useful. When you see "Aah-aah!" on the screen, you say it. You got that or not? I can't hear you. Got it or not? Well, at last. But not so loud. Your next-door neighbors have to get up early for work tomorrow.

And don't stop moving the mouse. The worst thing in life is to let your tempo slip, lose the rhythm. That's it . . . Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Ooohaah! Just look at you sweating away with pleasure, you little silly. Akiko likes it with you, have you got that? Got it or not? Ooohaah! Ooohaah!! Ooohaah!!! AaahoohAAAH!!

Translated from "Akiko." By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Andrew Bromfield. All rights reserved.

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