This story happened at my father’s house in the countryside when I was a kid.
If you want to put it politely you could say my father’s childhood home is surrounded by the beauty of nature. Another way to put it is that it’s in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
There are snakes, and though I’ve never seen them there are bears, and when I go there for the summer holidays it really teaches me the many meanings of the word ‘nature.’
This particular story happened when I was in the third grade of elementary school.
Our family went to stay with my grandparents for a week for Obon.
I’d play with my two older cousins (the older brother, A, and the younger brother, B) from morning till night. As it got closer to us returning home I’d get darker and darker from all the suntanning I got.
Although you would think I would have played more than enough by then it wasn’t enough, so the day before we were to go back home I asked A and B “Do you wanna go someplace even more fun?”
At A’s suggestion we decided to go to the “Second Hideout.”
This Second Hideout was a place just as you enter the mountains, what seemed to be the remains of a building built by a religious group. The land was surrounded by wire fencing but the entrance only had a loose chain, so it was easy for children to get inside.
With nobody there anymore it had gone to ruin. The wire fencing was falling apart and the ground was covered in weeds. There was a parking lot and asphalt road leading out, but there were so many fallen leaves you could barely see the ground.
It was a one story concrete building. White paint was peeling off the walls and all the doors and windows were closed with storm shutters. Each one was padlocked.
A and his brother got in via the back where a fallen tree had broken through a sliding door.
I followed them in and the first thing I saw was like a small assembly room. There was a curved skylight so the entire room was bright.
There was a long flat altar and an object of worship shaped like a penis. Being stupid kids we laughed at it.
We swung it around, threw it at each other, tossed it around like a rock, all sorts of stupid things…
We searched the building and played for a while, but the sun was setting and it was getting dark so we decided to go back.
Like how we entered A went out first, but as he did he suddenly screamed, “Look down! Whatever you do, don’t look up!”
“Huh?” I thought. But I continued to look at his feet as we tried to leave the grounds, and along the way we passed by someone.
If I were to describe him in a single word it would be “blue.”
I only saw his feet but they were those of an old person, an unnatural shade of blue.
I think it was like those old 500 yen notes, or more recently like the same shade as Natsume Souseki on 1000 yen notes, they stood out as something like that.
I got scared thinking that someone like that was standing so close to us, so I did my best to stick to A and B as we walked.
A kept repeating “OO-san please help us,” over and over like a chant.
B and myself were half crying, clinging to the elder A, just wishing we could get out of there.
We hurried along and finally reached the exit facing the asphalt road.
I wanted to run, thinking we were finally free, but as I started to lift my head once again A screamed “There’s two of them! Keep your head down!”
I was surprised that A noticed I’d looked up without even turning around, but I’d never heard him speak like that before so I quickly looked back towards the ground.
After walking a little while longer I could hear the sound of the wire fencing swaying, and what appeared to be A making his way through the gap.
A’s feet were shaking like crazy.
After A exited he held his hand out to us still inside the grounds, but it was shaking. We soon realised why.
There really was another one there.
I only glimpsed the feet, but unlike the old guy before this was a young woman. There was a tear in her ankle running a few centimetres upward, and the flesh behind the it was blue as well.
A was still saying whatever prayer it was he was saying.
Every now and then his voice got shrill and it was probably extremely difficult for him, but having brought us younger kids here it felt like he was doing his best for us.
Both myself and B clung to A, and holding hands we could do nothing but follow behind him.
When we reached the mountain trail A was still repeating his prayer, and every now and then he’d say to us “There should be another of them, keep looking down!”
As we got close to the end of the trail I felt a sense of security so I looked ahead and there was nobody standing ahead of us. I was relieved.
But of course it wasn’t over yet.
The last person was standing about four metres above the trail. She was kinda blurry, floating there, with a hairstyle and kimono you don’t see these days. She was blue, and half-smiling as she stared at us.
I was so scared I clung to A, and he soon realised what I’d seen so he helped carry me along.
As the sun disappeared we finally reached our grandparents’ house.
Our worried grandfather came to greet us, asking whether I’d been injured. A explained what he saw and that he’d properly prayed as we came back. I remember the family going into an uproar.
My grandfather and father ran about in a hurry, taking an offering off somewhere, and then my uncle who came later also went off after them.
My grandmother, mother and aunt all remained in the house. Bawling, our grandmother wouldn’t let go of A.
B and I had no idea what was going on.
However that night A broke out into a fever and he started crying that he might die. Our grandmother came and took him to another room to sleep.
The next morning we all went up to a gravesite slightly up the mountain-side to pray.
A also came, his father carrying him on his back as his fever came down.
I didn’t know whose grave it was but it was old. Quite a large stone made up the base.
Perhaps it was our family’s patron god, but seeing as there was no shrine, it was just a regular grave, I had no idea.
I saw A again at my grandfather’s funeral after we hadn’t seen each other for quite some time and we spoke.
“If I’d been done in by those guys I would have gone crazy and killed you. I did everything I could not to succumb to it. You’re from a branch family so you can’t be possessed, but if B had seen them it would have been a different story,” he said.
‘Our family is cursed?’ I wondered, finding it all just a little bit terrifying.