This happened when I went to visit my grandmother’s house as a child. We only went to visit my grandmother’s house once a year, during Obon, so as soon as we got there I took off at full speed with my older brother to play outside.
It’s entirely different to the city. The air is so fresh and clean. I took in the refreshing breeze as my brother and I ran around the rice fields. Then, as the sun rose high in the sky and stood right above us, the wind suddenly stopped.
Well, that’s what I thought, but then a disgustingly warm breeze blew instead. “It’s already hot at the best of times, why is such a warm breeze blowing now?!” I complained, angry that the cool breeze had been snatched away from me.
I noticed my brother was looking in another direction, towards a scarecrow in the distance. “What’s up with that?” I asked him. “No, not that, passed that,” he replied, and strained his eyes even harder to see. I wanted to see as well and looked intently over the rice fields. Then I saw it. What was that…?
It was far in the distance, so I couldn’t tell what it was. It was about the size of a human but it was white and swaying to and fro. There was nothing around here but rice fields, no reason for any people to be nearby. For a moment I felt strange, but then I tried to explain it.
“Isn’t that just a new type of scarecrow? It has to be! Until now scarecrows have never moved so a farmer or someone must have thought it up! It probably started moving with that wind just before!”
My brother’s expression said that he agreed with my precise explanation, but in an instant, it disappeared. The wind had stopped, and yet the white thing in the distance was still swaying.
“Hey, that thing’s still moving… what the hell is it?” he said, surprise in his voice. He wanted to know what it was, so he returned to the house and came back with a pair of binoculars. He seemed excited. “I’m gonna take a look first so just wait a minute!” he said and eagerly peered through the binoculars.
Then suddenly his face changed. Before my eyes, he started to turn blue and broke out into a cold sweat. Finally, he dropped the binoculars he was holding. Terrified of my brother’s transformation I asked him, “What was it?” He answered me very slowly. “YoU’rE beTter ofF nOt knoWinG…”
It wasn’t my brother’s voice. Just like that, he turned and steadily returned to the house. I went to pick up the binoculars to look at what turned my brother’s face instantly blue, but perhaps because of what he said I couldn’t find the courage to do it.
But something was bothering me.
From far away it just looked like something white swaying strangely. It was a little weird, but other than that wasn’t especially scary. But my brother… I had to look. I had to see what my brother saw. You’re that scary, huh? Well I’ll decide that with my own two eyes! I picked up the fallen binoculars and went to look. My father suddenly came running towards me.
Before I could even ask “what’s wrong?” my father rushed towards me. “Don’t look at that white thing! Did you see it?! Did you look at it through the binoculars!?” “No, not yet…” I replied, confused. “Oh thank god,” my father said, falling to the ground in relief. We went back to the house. I had no idea what was going on.
When we got back everyone was crying. Was this because of me? No, not me. When I looked closer, I could see my brother laughing like a madman. He was moving about like that white thing, swaying, swaying. Seeing my brother like that, he was scarier than whatever that white thing was. Then, when it was time for us to return home my grandmother said, “It would be better for everyone if you left him here. It’ll be easier for him to live here. Your place is small and if you think about your neighbours, they won’t wait even a few days before… Leave him here. The best thing to do is to release him into the rice fields after a few years…”
Hearing those words, I broke out into tears. I’d never see my brother like he was again. Even if we came back again the following year, that wouldn’t be my brother. Why did this happen…? We were just playing around, having fun, why…? I furiously wiped my tears, got into the car and we left the house behind.
As our grandparents waved goodbye, just for a moment I thought I saw my brother wave, too. As we got further away, I wanted to see my brother’s face one more time, so I looked through the binoculars and he was most definitely crying. His expression was that of laughter, but it was the first and last time he would smile so sadly again. Then, as we turned the corner and I could no longer see him, I broke out into tears once more, not taking my eyes away from the binoculars.
“One day you’ll come back, right?” I thought. I looked out over the green fields while remembering and missing my brother. Then, while I was thinking about my brother, I looked through the binoculars.
That was when it happened.
I saw the thing up-close that I knew I should never see.