House on the River

This took place about 10 or so years ago. I was six, and my older brother was eight. We went back to our father’s family home for the Obon holidays and we used the opportunity to have some fun.

It was sunny on this particular day and the weather felt nice. There wasn’t a single cloud as night fell and we could see the Milky Way clearly above us. It was amazing. We played with some fireworks and then we went for a walk with two of our cousins.

My father’s family home is way out in the middle of nowhere, halfway up a small hill. A bamboo thicket grew behind the house, and beyond that flowed a small stream. A small path used to follow the stream before the war, and it was the main road people in the area used. Now, that path had disappeared, and houses dotting the river were all that remained. Including my grandparents’ house, all the houses were extremely old, and had been around since at least before the war. My grandparents’ house had been remodelled, but the same couldn’t be said for the others. They looked like they’d been abandoned and were falling apart.

With a torch in hand, we went through the bamboo and emerged near the river. The banks of the river were flat and easy to walk on, perhaps a remnant of the old path. At our cousin’s suggestion, we decided to follow the river upstream.

The houses dotting the river were all dark, and not a single light could be seen.

“By following this path, we’ll be testing how brave we are!” my cousin said. According to him, the houses along the river all succumbed to misfortune in order from the top.

The house at the top of the river suffered a family suicide about 30 years prior. The next house burnt down about 10 years later. Two of the five family members died in the fire. An old man occupied the house after that, and he died alone. They discovered his body two months later (I later heard that my uncle and his friend were the ones to discover the body). The father of the next house killed himself because of money troubles, and after that his family went their separate ways.

“What about the house after that?” my older brother asked.

“The next house is ours,” my cousin said after a small sigh.

I got chills. If something happened to my cousins and their family… Silence fell over the four of us. Being a kid, I didn’t know what to think, so I just silently followed my cousins and brother as they walked along the river.

A few minutes later we arrived at the remains of the second house. We couldn’t see much in the darkness, but it appeared to be an empty lot. Then, I suddenly noticed something. Small orbs of light floating slowly in the air.

“Let’s go back,” I said, scared. In reality, we’d gone over our time to be back, so they readily agreed with my plan and the four of us rushed back to the house.

I couldn’t forget about the orbs and what my cousin said even after we returned home from the holidays. I was terrified that something might happen to them next, and I couldn’t sleep. As time went on I slowly forgot about it, and as the years passed we went from visiting them twice a year to just every now and then.

My brother entered university and moved out of home. After that, neither of us went to visit for a while.

During summer of my third year of high school, my brother came back to visit. We got along well, so the two of us went out to eat and then saw a movie. After the movie, we chatted about this and that. I don’t remember what started it, but suddenly the topic changed to that summer day.

“That story was scary, huh? I’m glad nothing’s happened to our cousins though,” I said.

“Seriously. I still haven’t forgotten about it.”

My brother nodded, and I considered if this was the right time to tell him about the orbs. For some reason, I felt like it wasn’t something I could ever tell anyone about, and so I kept it to myself all that time.

“Come to think of it, I saw something that day.” I broached the subject with him casually. “Like, fireballs, or balls of light? Something like that. At that place where the house burnt down.”

My brother stared at me, his eyes wide.

“Me too.”

“Huh?”

“I saw them too! Strange lights! They were floating in the air!”

It was my turn to be shocked. My brother had also seen what I thought was just a figment of my imagination. Chills ran down my spine and we silently agreed to stop talking about it. That night I couldn’t sleep.

A few months later, my brother died in a well-known accident. If I write about it people will know who I am, so I’m not gonna say anything. It was a strange accident, not something normal. It was even on the news.

The next year, my grandfather on my father’s side died. My grandmother followed shortly thereafter, and then my uncle. All three of them died of illness (of course, not an infectious or contagious disease). It wasn’t a disease I’d heard of before, and the doctor found it to be a strange coincidence as well. With no mother around to begin with, my cousins suddenly found themselves alone.

The night before my uncle’s wake, myself and my two cousins drank by his coffin. The two of them were planning to move out of the house.

“I can’t lie, I’m scared… Not that I believe in the story or anything…”

I wasn’t a strong drinker, so when I felt myself getting drunk I got up and went outside. I wondered around the garden and found myself out the back. I could hear the stream flowing nearby. The dense bamboo thicket had been cut down. Looking at the wasteland before me, I keenly felt the passing of time. I turned around and saw those same orbs of light floating in front of my cousins’ house.

That’s when I knew. Soon it’ll be my turn to die as well. The same way my brother did. Knowing that… I can’t stop the fear from taking over me.

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