Led to the Noose in Diapers

I was in town and arranged to meet him for tea.

He looked older. We all did.

He rose to shake my hand. “Haven’t seen you since Toyko,” he said with a trace of a smile.

I’d been one of those tasked with the delivery system. His job was the chemistry, Others in the group had different jobs. We’d all been young idealists, intelligent yet so easily manipulated by Asahara.

Eventually we got around to the subject.

“You read about the execution?”

“Watched a YouTube of it. Ghastly.”

“Do you ever miss him?”

“Asahara Shukun? No. But sometimes I miss his certainty.”

Friday Fictioneers

Shoko Asahara claimed to have achieved enlightenment in the Himalayas and preached an esoteric mix of various Eastern religions combined with his own apocalyptic prophecies.

His followers claimed their guru, who dressed in Chinese-style pajama tunics, had extra-sensory powers and could levitate for hours at a time.

On March 20, 1995 Aum Shin Rikyo released sarin at several points across the Tokyo subway during the morning rush hour.

The attack shocked the world and prompted a massive crackdown that saw Asahara and some of his followers arrested.

Ashara was imprisoned, refusing in his final days to bathe or use the toilet. He was hanged in July, 2018.



Add Yours
  1. pennygadd51

    Excellent last line. But I like even more the understated atmosphere of the meeting. You show us two men who are completely unfazed by their participation in mass murder. For me, that shows even more clearly the extent of the hold the cult and Asahara had over them.

  2. Na'ama Yehuda

    The ‘certainty’ (i.e. radicalism and narrow mindedness) is often what draws people to hang on to the tailcoats of cultists and dictators. To me, such ‘certainty’ is a red alarm siren blaring. …

  3. msjadeli

    Cult leaders are extremely skilled at trauma bonding with their followers. I remember the release of the toxin in the Japanese subway as a headline and then forgot about it until today. You did a great job of building the skeleton and then fleshing it out in the footnote.

  4. Iain Kelly

    I remember the attack, though not the background to the cult. The conviction of the followers is something I struggle to understand, but your last line sums it up – that feeling of certainty and purpose in the modern world must be attractive to those that need it. Good take.

  5. Tara

    What an incredible, powerful, striking story. Absolutely came here for the title, and so glad I stayed for the story. Thank you, too, for sharing the context of where you got the idea for your interpretation of the photo. As someone who has not belonged to such a group, I do often wonder why people stay- you answered the unasked in that last line.

  6. 4963andypop

    What a calm and casual recollection over coffee, chuckling over their fiendish part in this cultish conspiracy. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, but sometimes I wonder if absolutism attracts a certain type of person, already pre-programmed to commit abhorrent acts. In any case, nice reminder of the horrors of handing over control, though guilt does not seem to register with these men at all, even in their complicity. Their lack of remorse makes me fear they may have come together to plan another attack.

  7. granonine

    I could almost believe you were actually a part of that cult! Your writing is so real, and totally believable. I did not know who this person was, so thanks for the education :)

  8. Fatima Fakier

    Oh my! What a story. So well crafted and written. That last line really echoed a huge truth for me: that people so easily accept cults, religions or political systems because of the certainty it offers them to all the unanswered questions of life.

Don't just stand there.