I am staying with an exchange family in Japan. Something very wrong is happening here - Chap 7
I dart into the woods as the house lights up behind me. I run for no more than a minute then turn around to see how far I’ve gone. The dim glow of the fire illuminates through the foggy night, enhancing the shapes of the trees around me. I’m not far away enough yet. I turn to run, and hear a screech from the house’s direction. It’s a long, high pitched shriek; full of anger. I know that doesn’t belong to a human. It echoes through the woods, bouncing off the trees around me, ringing in my ears. I keep running.
I see children. To my left, a young boy in a white kimono stands pointing at me from the fog. To my right, a young girl in the same attire points at me from behind a tree. There are soon children all around me, every few steps I see one pointing at me from the darkness. They’re showing her where I am. They all whisper. The sound of their chant is carried by the wind, quietly reminding me that this is not yet over. Amongst the sound, a baby’s cries comes from deep within the woods. This is too much for me; the whispers of the children, the crying of a baby; I am panicking, yet I continue to run. Naked and bleeding, gripping the very blade that caused my wound, I leap over fallen branches, through sharp bushes, and away from the cries and eyes of the dead children.
I see light in the distance. I don’t know how, this place has a way of turning me around on myself, but it’s the village.
I see the town square; it looks as if the entire village has gathered there. Men and woman surround a central figure; I realise I have seen no children in the village, and I now know why. In the square’s centre, standing elevated by its statue, Father Nomura. His voice bellows from his half-burnt face as he speaks to the residents of the village. As spit flies from his lips, skin slowly drips down his face. He is angry, and the people appear to heed and agree with his every word. I am behind a tree; a row of houses stand between me and the square. This is my chance. With everyone occupied by Father Nomura, I can sneak into a house, steal clothes and maybe some money.
I pace toward the closest house, blood drips with every step. The wound has opened up further; dirt and leaves stick to my body, my blood acts as glue. I open the front door and enter the first house. I see two doors towards the back and assume they are bedrooms. I enter one and sure enough I am right. I find clothes; ironically, a white kimono. I scrounge together any money or valuables that may help me escape. Blood drips on the house floor as I leave and move onto the next.
In the next house, I do the same. I’ve acquired a decent amount of money, but I’ll keep stealing more in case. I sneak out the second house am halfway to the third, when I notice Father Nomura point toward the trees. A section of the villagers run in that direction, disappearing into the treeline. Father Nomura points in another direction; the same thing, villagers move towards the trees. He then points in my direction, although he doesn’t see me. I won’t have time to make it to the next house or back to the one I came from. I’d be seen. I turn and run back into the trees. The villagers have been sent, I’m guessing, to find me.
They are faster than me. They haven’t seen me yet, but they will soon. I reach the treeline, and feel my only option is to hide. I’m bleeding too much to outrun them; coupled with my exhaustion and lack of proper clothing. I no longer see the dead children, or hear the baby’s cries. I trudge into the woods, before seeing a climbable tree nearby.
Jumping up to its low hanging branch, I hoist myself up. I hold back screams as my wound presses against the wood, my insides sandpapered. My white kimono soon takes the colour red. I keep climbing. I pull myself up one more branch just as the villagers enter my sightline. I pray that I’m high up enough that they don’t notice me. The first few pass without trouble. They look scared. They look guilty. But I know they’re not on my side.
I hear a shout from the direction of the village. They’ve definitely found something; either my trail of blood or they’ve realised I looted their houses. Soon, the area around me swarms with villagers. Every few minutes, one emerges from the fog and passes my tree.
“Finn!”, Ren’s voice echoes, “Finn! We found your blood and know you are near!”
I freeze. She couldn’t be more than 40 feet away. She’s close to me, somewhere in the fog.
“Finn!”, she yells, “let us explain!”
“Finn!”, a voice booms. Father Nomura’s.
“You must come out to us!”, Ren shouts.
“You must let us explain!”, Father Nomura bellows from beyond the fog, surprising me with his English words.
I feel my blood start to drip. It soaked through the kimono and now drips onto the ground below. I try to cover it with my hand, and move my wound further above the branch so it leaks onto it, yet it continues to drip down the branch’s side.
Someone emerges from the fog as I struggle to stop my blood leaking from the branch’s edge.
She looks scared. Her arms are burnt, yet she shakes in the cold night air. She walks slowly, nervously looking around.
I quietly try to contain the dripping, but it continues to steadily drip down.
Hina moves under my tree and a drop of my blood falls onto the shoulder of her white kimono.
She doesn’t realise.
She stands under my tree.
Another drop lands on her shoulder.
As she turns to leave, a drop of my blood falls in front of her face and slightly clips her nose.
She looks up slowly, and sees me clinging to the branch above. She stares at me in disbelief. It feels like it’s been minutes. We continue to stare at each other.
She begins to quietly mutter something under her breath.
I begin to beg, “Hina, I-”.
She turns her head and shouts loudly in the direction of the village.
I have no choice. In one quick movement, I brandish the knife and push myself off the branch onto the one below before jumping onto Hina. She falls to the ground under my weight, groaning as we both hit the dirt.
I feel a warm liquid around my hand oozing from the knife. I’ve stabbed her. The knife cut into the upper side of her stomach at an upward angle that looks like it’s slid under her ribs. As I let go of the knife, I feel it is stuck in place. She is silent, looking at me in shock.
I wonder if I got to her in time. I wonder if Father Nomura heard her yell.
Villagers emerge from the trees, followed by Ren. I am encircled by people; Father Nomura soon one of them.
My eyes briefly lock with his before he looks down at his daughter that I had just killed. He is frozen. His face slowly turns to one of despair. Tears well up in his eyes. He swallows loudly and clenches his jaw. He does not move.
The first villager begins to quietly chant, dropping to his knees as he does so.
The rest soon follow, including Ren.
Soon, the villagers surround me, quietly chanting, bowing down. Father Nomura still stands, staring at his dead daughter. He is yet to move.
From behind him, movement.
Children emerge from the fog. The same children who had once been hunted by the grandmother, and who had hunted me earlier tonight. I count around 15 of them all huddled together. 2 of them approach Hina, the rest watch from the woods. I move away from her, scurrying in the dirt. The young boy and young girl are the first ones I had seen when running. Each grab one of Hina’s feet, and drag her toward the other children. Father Nomura’s eyes follow Hina as she is dragged passed him, his head turning so that she doesn’t leave his sight. I notice he now whispers the same chant as the rest of the village.
His whispers are the quietest here.
The tall, foreboding silhouette of the grandmother slowly emerges from behind the children. Hina’s body rests in the dirt, her feet out of sight immersed in the fog. As I make out the figure of the grandmother, Hina’s body suddenly is jerked deep into the woods; a fast and violent motion that pulls her out of sight completely.
The children and the grandmother fade into the night beyond them.
I am frozen. One by one, the villagers stop bowing, stop chanting, and leave. Soon, Ren leaves, quietly saying something to her father as she passes. She doesn’t look at me.
Father Nomura and I are the last two here. He remains standing, still quietly chanting. His eyes haven’t left the spot where Hina’s body lay before it was pulled into the night.
I stand and slowly back away from him.
His whispers change.
“I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.”
I spent last night by the road. The bus just arrived; I’m almost surprised when I see it – I had been in and out of consiousness so often that I hadn’t realised how many days it’d been. Upon seeing my bloodstained clothes, the driver asks me what happened. But I ignore him and give him the stolen money before taking my place at the back of the bus.
Police soon stop the bus; I’m guessing the driver contacted them about me. Fair enough. I tell the police everything; about the village, the Nomura family, the fire, the grandmother. Obviously, they don’t believe me, and take me away in their car.
It’s been a few days since I escaped the Nomura family. The police tell me that they located the burnt remains of the Nomura household, but none of the family. They say the villagers tell them that the Nomura family were the richest in the village, and that they had taken me in but have no idea what happened to the house. They deny any acknowledgement of any ‘yamauba’ terrorizing the village. Although, I hadn’t actually mentioned the grandmother being a yamauba. I just told the police that there was a creature who mimicked an old woman.
I only have just found out what a yamauba is and it fits the grandmother’s description. I fear that even though the Nomura’s are gone, the creature isn’t. I fear the villagers are still under her control.
I’ve tried to call Lexi hundreds of times; her number isn’t even in service anymore. I don’t know if I’ll have another update; probably not. But as I lie in hospital and go through the photos from her trip years ago, I recognise the Nomura family. I see photos of her smiling with them, laughing with them.
As I reach the final few photos of her trip, I see a picture of her with a young boy. He is full of life, smiling as he hugs her in his white kimono.