The Eyes – Mokumoku Ren

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Hideo dashed through the lashing rain, his wooden clogs slipping on the dirt track, his back weighed down by his heavy travelling pack. He looked desperately around but he was surrounded by abandoned rice paddy fields and there seemed to be no shelter to be had.

He made for the nearest tree which was only just taller then himself. Hideo shivered and wondered how far it was to the nearest village. Trying hard to convince himself that he wasn’t lost, Hideo fell into prayer.

When he opened his eyes and looked down the road, he saw a gate sticking out of the undergrowth. Smiling and feeling like his prayers had been answered, Hideo walked over, the rain and wind whipping around him. He tugged himself through the half open gate and went up what had once been a path which led him to an abandoned house.

Entering, he called out and listened to his echoing voice. Normally he had would have taken off his clogs and left them at the porch but he had no idea what would be on the floors and thought it might be safer to keep them on for the moment.

The abandoned house’s roof was sound and the all the rooms were dry. Hideo went into the front room and set himself up on the floor. He was tried but he had something to eat and drink before settling down to sleep.

The rain hammered on the roof like a banging drum and the wind howled through ripped screen windows. Normally such a racket would have kept Hideo awake but he was so tried sleep came easily.

Sometime time later, something disturbed his sleep and Hideo woke up, he lay in the dark wondering what it was. Thunder rumbled and he decided the storm must have awakened him. Grateful, he had found this abandoned house, Hideo lay down to sleep again but a creeping feeling of being watched prickled the back of his neck.

Muttering that it was just the storm and tiredness, Hideo tried to rest. The feeling wouldn’t go away and seemed to grow until he was forced to give in and light his lamp.

‘I’m sorry for entering your house!’ Hideo spoke in Japanese, ‘I was only seeking shelter. Please let yourself be known. I mean no harm, I am but an old travelling merchant who became lost in the storm.’

Hideo listened to his words faded but heard no reply. He debated getting up and walking through the house, making peace and saying thank you for the shelter. Something flickered out of the corner of his eye and Hideo turned to see a shoji screen behind him.

Another flicker of movement and a human eye was staring at Hideo.

‘Thank you for letting me stay here,’ Hideo spoke and bowed low.

When he looked up again more eyes had joined the first and they seemed to be forming across the screen.

Hideo swallowed and watched as soon the whole screen was taken over by staring eyes.

‘Mokumoku Ren – haunted shoji screen. The first sign of a haunted house,’ Hideo whispered.

Quickly, Hideo began uttering prayers, blessing and thanks, everything he could think of that might keep the spirits of the abandoned house at bay.

Finally exhausted, he collapsed on the floor and fell into a deep sleep.

Sunlight tickling his face woke Hideo. Startled, he looked around, the memory of the haunting eyes hurried him to leave this place. Gathering his thing, he rushed outside then remembered to be respectful and turned back with a low bow to the abandoned house.

‘Thank you for letting me stay. Please don’t haunt me!’ Hideo called.

Spinning around, he ran down the pathway and back onto the dirt road, praying that no spirits followed him.

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Hokora #Writephoto

I stopped before the shrine, my younger sister’s hand tightening in my own. I glanced down at her. Miki’s school uniform almost matched mine and her long black hair was tied back like my own. She had a bright pink backpack on her shoulders whilst I had a leather satchel on just one shoulder. Miki’s face was turned upwards, her usual blue eyes fixed on the shrine, her expression slightly puzzled.

‘It looks like an…owl,’ she said slowly.

‘I guess…it does,’ I replied.

We were use to seeing these Hokora -Shinto shrines- dotted along the roads, outside houses and important buildings. They were places for the Kami – spirits of nature – to visit and people to prayer and /or leave offerings. They were little one roomed ‘houses’ made of stones and or woods.

This one though, was different. It was made out of a tall single stone and had an archway at the top. Inside was a metal carving of a creature that looked like an owl but it it had long ears and a horn in between. Inside the owl was an unlit candle and around it were small coins.

‘Why, an owl, Keiko?’ my little sister asked.

I thought for a moment then replied, ‘owls are a symbol of fortune and protection. Which makes sense for travelers because they’d ask the Kami to protect them from evil spirits whilst on the road.’

‘Oh,’ Miki responded.

‘Let’s pray for a safe walk home and good luck,’ I suggested.

Miki give a single nod and a hum sound.

We put our hands together, shut our eyes and bowed before the shine before asking aloud, ‘Kami bring us protection and fortune on the journey.’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/02/01/thursday-photo-prompt-shrine-writephoto/ with thanks).

Glade #writephoto

As we tromped through the Japanese ‘suicide’ forest, I tried to remember what number this activity had been at on Robin’s bucket list. Somewhere around the middle maybe?

Scrambling over a large tree root, I pressed my hand into the mossy trunk of a tree and carried on following our Japanese guide. He was wearing a yellow high visible jacket and blue waterproof trousers. Though there was a lot to take in but my eyes were mostly on the ground. Also, I didn’t want to step on any more rotting clothes and human bones.

I looked back at Robin walking at the tail end of our small group with his wife, Tia, who he was talking too. It was hard to believe the doctors had given him only a year to now live. Robin seemed so full of life and excitement, a newly married twenty-six year old with everything to live for.

The loud snapping of branches brought my head up. Our guide was breaking his way through, cutting down things with his small sword. He said something quietly and I wasn’t sure what but then I saw it.

My hand flew to my mouth and I turned away, stumbling into Greg who’d been behind me.

‘Don’t look!’ I gasped out.

‘We’ll go around,’ the guide said in his American accented English.

‘Is it a body?’ Robin’s voice half-shouted.

Though I had my head buried in Greg’s shoulder and the imagine of the two bodies danging from the tree, I was aware of Robin pushing his way to the front to see.

‘Don’t go any further,’ the guide spoke.

‘I won’t,’ Robin answered.

I risked a peek over Greg’s shoulder and saw the others standing still, waiting. Robin was close to my right and he was looking up in wonder.

‘Let’s go,’ I uttered and took Greg’s hand so that we walked away together, ‘I wished we hadn’t come here.’

‘He’s facing death and he wants to see it first hand,’ Greg said and shrugged. Nothing seemed to bother him.

I stopped and took in a few deep breaths. I slide my hand from Greg’s and we waited for everyone to join us. Then we walked in silence until we reached a glade and set up camp for the night. I couldn’t sleep. That brief image haunted me but instead of those unknown faces, I saw Robin and Tia’s.

Tears soaked my cheeks and I broke into sobs. I couldn’t picture a world without Robin but it was one I’d soon be living in.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/10/05/thursday-photo-prompt-glade-writephoto/ with thanks).

Luck

PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma

Kobi looked up at the post then pointed out the bright green and black insect that was hanging there.

‘Granny! A cricket!’ Kobi called.

‘Huh?’ Granny asked.

She bent down and looked through her huge, thick glasses.

‘No, it’s not. It’s a grasshopper,’ Granny muttered.

Kobi’s shoulders sank and disappointment etched across his face.

Granny moved her glasses up and down, ‘maybe a locust,’ she added thoughtfully, ‘but not a cricket. Too big.’

‘Awww, I really wanted a lucky cricket,’ Kobi sighed.

Granny smiled, ‘We’d have to go out of town to find one of them. Crickets don’t like all this noise.’

Kobi pulled a face.

‘Why do you need luck?’ Granny asked.

‘For the maths test,’ he replied.

Granny took his hand, ‘I can think of better lucky things for that,’ she answered and led him away.

 

(Inspired from: https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/03/08/5881/ PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma, with thanks.)

Latte

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Sato felt warmed inside and out despite the rain hammering against the window. Sitting back in the over sized royal purple colored armchair, she carried on watching the wild wintry weather. Around her, the coffee shop was humming with soft voices, machines, people eating and drinking. The air was heavy with the smell of coffee beans, tea and cakes.

Wrapping her hands around the large red mug, Sato let her thoughts drift. She tried not to think too much about anything though; not her job, part-time studies, recent conversations with grandma, the breakup with her boyfriend. She thought about returning to Japan for Christmas. At least that would stop grandma complaining, but she still wouldn’t have anyone special to share Christmas Eve with.

Sighing, Sato looked into her mug at the light brown frothy top. The leaf pattern that had been drawn on top was almost gone now.

Just like autumn almost is, she thought.

Rising her head, she glanced around the coffee shop, which seemed as the weather raged outside to be too empty. There was only a few other armchairs and sofas occupied by single people or by couples. They all seemed quiet and reflective, just like her. Behind the counter, the two baristas were doing a quick clean up before someone else came in. Somehow, they were keeping their tasks quiet as if they didn’t want to disturb the peace that had settled in the air.

Sato turned back to the rain and condensation covered window. People were hurrying by tucked into coats and umbrellas. The wind was shaking the bus signpost and upturning everything it could. A car splashed through a puddle, sending spray everywhere and causing a man with a large briefcase to dodge out of the way.

In a better mood, she would have laughed at that. Instead, Sato felt slightly sorry for the man and sympathized with a near miss to her the other day. As she watched, he crossed the road and opened the door to the coffee shop. A blast of cold air and rain followed him. He went to the counter and began ordering.

A shiver ran through Sato then was gone. She un-crumbled her face and tried to go back to her thoughts again, but then she couldn’t remember what she had been thinking about. Shrugging, she brought the mug to her lips and taking a sip of sweet ginger spiced latte and let the world slide away.

Dear Diary #21

Dear Diary, why am I so fascinated by the Suicide Forest in Japan?

I watched another online video today of four young men exploring the place. It was raining and you could hear the rain dripping off the trees. There seemed to be no birds or any other animals in the background, just the men walking and talking to the camera. The forest was mega wild and they said the ground was made of fallen trees, roots and undergrown plants. It looked almost like an evil fantasy forest.

They found three broken umbrellas then a camping spot where two light green single person tents were still intact. Off to the side, were the remains of a small camping fire, badly damped by the heavy rain. An empty rucksack lay beside the first tent, the zips all undone. A white baseball cap was behind the second tent and there was a scattering of Japanese sweet packets.

They looked into the tents and I held my breath believing they were about to discover someone, but there was only litter and water. They even searched the area, though they claimed the video wasn’t about them looking for bodies…but I guess if you came across an abandoned tent in the middle of a forest will known for suicides then you’d want to know what happened to the person.

I sort of want to know too, but I think it’s clear what happened…

I want to go, more desperately then before. I want to know why people are driven there and why they decide they don’t want to live. Plus, there are all these claims about it being haunted and not just by the souls of those poor people, but by evil spirits that lure people in. Okay, maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but there must have been something that started the stories, there always is. Maybe, it would be a good thing for my PhD? And it’d give me a reason to go…Though this would be the third ‘haunted’ place I’ve submitted in my applications. But from a psychologic point of view, it’s just super interesting.

Hopefully, my fascination will die down soon enough, but right now I’m going to start a new application and see what the universities think about it. Maybe, there’s a reason why I’m so attracted to these creepy place? Perhaps, I need to do some mind testing on myself!

Behind Every Door

Door, Building, Ruin

I stare at my front door then whisper, ‘my high street. Let me open the door and walk into my high street, please.’

Gripping the heavy brass knob, I twist it to the right and pull open the door. My totally normal three floored terrace house street flashes by and is replaced with a desolate countryside scene. I grit my teeth and look at the tall waves of grass rustling against the ruins of a giant stone doorway.

I close the door and press both hands to the three hundred year old wood. Praying to anyone and everything that’s listening, I wonder why I’ve been cursed with a magic door. To be honest there are more upsides then downsides. Last year, I spent two weeks in Italy, travel and hassle free. Also, when I had to escape from a blind date that went completely wrong. Well, there’s not much of a comeback after announcing you only have one ball and spilling red wine on my favorite dress.

Opening the door again, I keep my eyes shut and picture my high street. All those lovely little shops and fancy cafes, who’s window displays beg you to enter. The large flower pots and trimmed baby trees, looking far too good to be real. With the normal people going about their daily business, free from inconvenient magic doors.

A soft wind and swishing causes my eyes to pop open and I see the same scene before me. I growl and open the door wider, as if that makes any difference. The grass stretches before me leading to the other doorway. Nicely framed in the empty opening is an oak tree, looking smaller in the distance. There’s nothing else around, expect for some birds which are singing somewhere.

‘Why here?’ I ask, ‘I want to go to my high street. I’ve shopping to do!’

Of course, there’s no reply to my demands. The door has never given me any answers. I think if it did, I’d freak out and there’d be no leaving the house after that.

I close the door and lock it.

‘Now. My high street, please. No more funny business. You got it door? Or else…Chop chop for you,’ I threat then grab my shopping bag and handbag.

I take a deep breath, unlock the door and touch the brass knob. Holding my breath, I open the door and….

The long grass sways in a cross wind and the framed oak tree looks like a photographer’s dream.

I sigh, tug my bags higher on my shoulder and give in. I walk out, closing the door behind me and began to make my way through the grass. The sky is bleak grey above me, so I have no idea what time it is, but the wind is warm and dry, which is a good. I approach the other doorway, my thoughts badmouthing my bad luck.

The door frame is a lot bigger then it seems. Huge square stone blocks that surely could have only been placed by a monster crane guard the way. I touch one and find it cool. Staring through, I see the oak tree in the distance and surrounding it is nothing but empty grass fields. How am I meant to go shopping here?

I turn back and see a matching stone door frame. There is nothing to even indicted magic or anything. To the normal eye that is. I see the faint glinting gold outline of a door with a large brass knob matching knocker ring and letter slot. It looks the same wherever I end up, but only appears in the place it opened up in.

I have no idea how long it stays for or if it comes and goes at will. It certainly doesn’t listen to me. The only time I’ve came close to testing this was when I ended up being caught in the 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake. I thought the apocalypse had arrived for sure and here was me just wanting a quiet few days away…by sheer luck or maybe it had something to do with the door itself, I found it in an old tea shop and got back home. I didn’t leave home much after that.

Frowning, I walk back, running my hands over the grass. The ground is soft underneath me and I’m glad I decided on flat shoes this morning. High heels wouldn’t have stood a chance. I reach my door and grab the handle. Opening it, I see a flash of my hallway before a high street rolls out before me.

‘Thank you, door,’ I say and step out.

Avoiding a rush of people, I move out of the doorway and look around. It’s not my town. The sky reaching buildings and traffic packed road confirms it. I sigh and turn back into the archway, but something catches my eye. A coffee shop sign. Going over and looking through the window, my reflection smiles back at me.

Well, there’s nothing like a good cup of coffee in New York on a Saturday afternoon…even if a magic door did just transport you here.

Church (Chapter 5, Part 3)

Angel

(Continued from Church Chapter 5, Parts 1 and 2)

I stood up and collected my sheathed great sword. Oddly, I knew it wouldn’t be much use right now, but just holding it made me feel better. I turned to Rain, she was still sat on the trunk lid. Her head was down and she seemed to be fighting something in her mind. I went over slowly, my bare feet hardly making any sound on the wooden floor.

‘It’s your sword isn’t it? I asked softly, ‘there’s a spirit trapped in there.’

Rain’s head shot up. Puzzlement swept the concentration away on her face. She nodded once, ‘Normally, it takes a lot longer for people to get that. And even longer for them to understand it,’ she explained, ‘I had no doubts about you though. I’ve not met a more powerful angel than you in a while.’

‘Then why didn’t you tell me sooner?’ I pressed.

‘There was no point till he started affecting you. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you how to block him out.’

‘I want to know,’ I started then paused, remembering what she had said about secrets she had to keep.

Rain looked up at me almost shyly and embarrassed from under her hair.

‘About him, the spirit. And how you ended up with that sword. Can you tell me that?’ I finished.

‘Only, if you tell me the reason why you were sent here. You must remember some of your mission,’ she countered back.

‘I’ll try,’ I responded.

Rain dropped her head and took a deep breath, ‘the legend goes that there was a great Japanese samurai in the medieval period and he lusted after power. He enjoyed killing and death. He went against the samurai code and let himself become consumed by greed. He went insane, perhaps he gave his soul to a daemon, but it’s unknown.’ She shrugged.

‘When he was finally killed, it was decided that he had to be punished further. His soul was fused to his katana and his line cursed. At the time, the samurai had no male relatives, so the curse fell upon the women. Thus, the katana has been passed from mother to daughter, sister to sister, aunts to nieces. Never breaking the line.’

‘And they…all used it?’ I broke in to question.

Rain shook her head, ‘in the early days they kept it hidden and only told the story on their deathbeds. Then, one day a mother used it to defend her daughter from a rapist. It’s claimed that act woke the samurai’s soul. Since then, he has grown and grown in power. People have tried to stop him, but nothing has worked. He can’t be locked away or destroyed or released.’

‘How could humans have wielded such power?’ I mused.

‘They couldn’t. The Mestemalum Senātus, The Reapers Of Death To Evil Senate, sensed the power and went to studied it. They decided that the katana was too dangerous and they tried to remove it, but the woman at the time, my great times four grandma, didn’t want to let it go. She made a bargain with them. If they would train her and her daughter to control and harness the katana, she would carry out any task they give her.’

‘And they agreed,’ I slotted in, ‘and that’s come around to you now?’

Rain paused, her face saddened. She looked at her boots then at me, ‘my story is different, but she and her daughter created my first destiny.’

I tried to digest everything she had told me, but I had never heard a story like it. Clutching my sword, I went and sat down in the chair. I felt Rain watching me, but I just wanted a moment to reflect. It felt like she had told me so much and yet she was avoiding the true point.

I heard her getting off the trunk and coming over to me. Gently, she took my sword from my hands and carried it over to its place against the wall, as if it was a child’s teddy bear.

‘No one can lift that sword but me,’ I gasped, turning to face her.

‘It’s bonded to you, yes,’ Rain said in a low tone, ‘and it has the powers of Heavenly Light, but it would let anyone use it to do good and defeat evil, because that’s its purpose. But it’s not alive.’

I frowned, trying to grasp her meaning.

‘Haku is,’ she stated simply, ‘no one else can touch him. If they do, he gets inside their heads and convinces them to kill themselves. He feeds off souls. That’s how he gets his power.’

‘I understand,’ I answered reflectively.

Rain sat down on the bed again and drew her black pants up. Underneath, her skin tight leather boots went up to her knees. She began to unlace them. I watched, but didn’t take any of it in. My mind was on what that whispering voice had been saying before.

‘Is that his real name?’ I asked aloud.

‘No one knows. It’s the name he gave me. Sometimes it’s different, or so I heard,’ Rain responded. She placed her boots slightly under the table, then started undoing a silk belt around her stomach.

I glanced over at the trunk then back at her. Questions drifted into my mind, but I didn’t give voice to any of them. Instead I pushed it from my mind and watched Rain taking off her top.

Underneath, she had on a black vest, which revealed her shoulders, but covered the rest of her upper body. Her breasts were now clearly defined. She lay down, arranging the pillows and blankets.

‘Why the trunk?’ I muttered to take my mind off her.

‘Huh?’ Rain yawed.

‘Why put him in the trunk?’ I repeated.

‘It helps to contain him. It won’t fully stop him from reaching out though. The more you think about it and open your mind to it, the more he can get in. Don’t think about it. Come to bed,’ she added and patted a tossed aside blanket.

I nodded and stood. I went to take off my robe then thought better of it. I walked over, stepping over her and knelt down to make a space for myself. Rain had rolled over and curled her hands under the pillow. I settled down, laying on my back with a single blanket covering my lower body. I put a hand behind my head and looked at her bare shoulder.

‘Tell me your mission,’ Rain muttered.

‘Later. You’re tried,’ I pointed out.

‘No, now,’ she mumbled and rubbed her cheek against the pillow.

‘All right, I’ll tell you want I remember.’

To Be Continued…