Old Lady Kamitani

When I was in junior high school, there was this famous woman called “Old Lady Kamitani.” She was the mother of one of my classmates. Everyone at school and even around the neighbourhood knew of her. She looked like a regular woman, but she was a really good listener and great at telling stories. Even the local delinquents didn’t want to upset her, they were like, “Nah man, we don’t wanna piss her off.”

She listened to our stupid problems and gave us useful advice, and when necessary she got angry at us and encouraged us to do our best as well. She was like that one adult we could freely talk to about things we couldn’t tell our parents or teachers. She was everyone’s mother.

The first thing that comes to mind when you mention Old Lady Kamitani is ghost stories. She told amazing ones. They were just like any other ghost stories, but she told them so well. They were so scary that the girls would all scream and carry on like children.

This story is about her.

During autumn of my second year at junior high school, a transfer student named Akiyama joined our class. We lived out in the countryside and didn’t often get transfer students, so everyone was interested in him. My first impression of him was that he was tall and handsome, the type of guy all the girls would like.

At first everyone flocked to him and helped him out with whatever he needed, but after a while they started avoiding him.

“He threw a rock at a dog! Even if he injured it, there’s nothing we can do!”

“He kicked a cat as hard as he could! It was twitching and couldn’t move so he stomped on it!”

The teachers got wind of this, of course, but his mother was one of those so-called ‘monster parents.’ According to the rumours, he was a problem at his last school as well. His mother often fought with the school and in the end his parents got divorced. His mother returned to her family home and so he was now here. My mother was also born here, so she knew quite a bit about Akiyama’s mother. I heard some rumours from her as well. But, our homeroom teacher was quite hot-blooded and refused to back down from her.

“All life is important! You must be affectionate to the weak! Education isn’t just study!”

He was a force to be reckoned with. Even the delinquent kids who usually hassled the homeroom teachers respected him.

But anyway, Akiyama was scary. Not like a delinquent or a bad kid or anything, but there was this weird darkness about him that was really scary.

One day, I was going to Kamitani’s house to hang out when I ran into him and his mother heading out to the shops. The supermarket was nearby, but they were buying a lot of rice and other heavy things so he was going along with her. I offered my help and the three of us went together. While we were shopping, I saw Akiyama standing a short distance away, all by himself. The supermarket was quite far from his house. He looked kinda suspicious for someone who was supposedly just shopping. I elbowed Kamitani, and he soon noticed him as well.

“What the hell is he doing?”

“I dunno.”

While we were whispering, Kamitani’s mother stuck her face in-between us.

“Is that the Akiyama boy you spoke of?” she whispered.

“How did you know?” We were both surprised.

“He’s no good. Don’t go near him. There’s nothing else you can do,” she said, and then went back to her shopping. This was a woman who had never given up on anyone before, ever, so her words came as a huge shock. Kamitani especially was surprised.

“For my mother to say something like that…”

Not too long after that, Akiyama stopped coming to school. But no-one showed any sign of worry, rather the atmosphere was like no-one wanted him to come back. His mother barged into the school several times, “Someone’s bullying him! They have to be! My son is acting strange because of all this!”

There was no bullying, but because he was always alone in class, things became a mess. His mother even came to my house; it seemed like she also knew about mine.

“Your son has been bullying mine, hasn’t he?!”

“My son has good grades, so yours is jealous!”

“Your son is useless, anyway. He should have been the one to go crazy!”

My parents tried to quietly drive her away at first, but in the end they were pretty pissed off. I was just somehow sad. Ah, even his mother is crazy, too…

The third semester finished and one day during the spring holidays, I went over to Kamitani’s house. I was chatting with him and his mother when the subject of Akiyama came up. In all honestly, the whole time I’d been curious about him. Why did Kamitani’s mother warn us not to go near him?

Akiyama never ended up coming back to school. He went totally crazy and even now is still in the hospital. Apparently his mother ended up in a different hospital as well. His grandparents had nothing to do with her either. Supposedly they said something like, “That madwoman isn’t our daughter. Leave her in the hospital until she dies.”

After hearing all that, I asked Kamitani’s mother, “So just what was Akiyama?”

She thought about it for a moment before replying, “He wasn’t human. I could tell just at a glance. He wasn’t human anymore. The real Akiyama, well he was probably a regular boy. But he was consumed, little by little, until the real Akiyama disappeared. What lived inside his skin was just muddled desires in human form.”

Kamitani and I were shocked. His mother often told us ghost stories, but it was the first time she’d told us anything quite like this, like she was a psychic or something.

“H-how could such a thing happen? That’s terrifying!”

We both turned blue.

“‘The sins of the mother shall be visited upon the son.’ …or something like that, I guess? That boy’s grandfather has killed many people over the years. No directly, of course, but thanks to him many people have died. The reason Akiyama’s mother was so messed up was because of that. But because things can’t be settled so easily, it passed down to Akiyama himself as well. The resentment and grudges of those who died, they called forth something truly sinister, and it consumed him. How sad…”

“That can’t be! Then Akiyama wasn’t the bad one!” Kamitani said.

“That’s cause and effect. It doesn’t curse individuals, it curses blood. Those who are close. You should be careful as well. Human beings never do things that make sense. You watch that old man. Now! Shall we get dinner ready? Kimura (me), you stay and eat something as well!”

Just like that, Kamitani’s mother returned to the kitchen like everything was normal. Kamitani and myself both sat there, defeated. Even though he didn’t do anything bad himself, for Akiyama to end up like that… it was scary. It felt like a story we should keep to ourselves, lest people start to treat Kamitani’s mother strangely, so Kamitani and I promised to never mention it again. But I’m nearing 40 myself now, and Kamitani’s mother has passed away, so that’s why I’m writing it all down here.

After those events, Akiyama’s grandfather got sick and ended up completely paralysed. He was bedridden. His wife died taking care of him and then he was institutionalised. I later heard that in the past Akiyama’s grandmother was a big-wig moneylender and rather crooked to boot. One of my mother’s old classmates worked in the hospital where he was admitted, and according to her, his entire body was stiff, he couldn’t even sit. But despite that, his pain was never-ending. No matter what they did, they couldn’t help him. Then he was infected with bedsores which lead to various other illnesses, and then finally he died. “It would have been like hell on earth,” she said. This happened just recently, so he spent the last 20 years of his life like that.

I don’t know anything about what happened to Akiyama or his mother. I don’t even know whether they’re alive or dead. Maybe it was all just a coincidence. Maybe his grandfather had a weak disposition and got ill, and maybe both Akiyama and his mother were just mentally unstable. I mean, there are plenty of people in the world who never do anything wrong but still get sick or meet with misfortune.

But having said that, to this day I make sure to visit my ancestor’s graves and hold memorial services for them. I want to give thanks to them, because it’s because of them that I can live this happy life I have.

 

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