Last week I was working the night shift at the factory. The sound of machinery, air, and other loud noises means it’s difficult to hear someone unless you get up close to them. I was working as usual when I suddenly heard the sound of heels walking right behind me. I turned around, but nothing was there.
Worked finished at 5 in the morning, and on my way out into the car park, there was a woman in a red dress and oversized red hat standing there. It was early morning, the sun was up and everything was kinda bright, so I couldn’t see her very well, but it was odd for a woman in such clothes to be all the way out in the countryside at that time.
The next day I asked some of the other guys about it, but nobody had seen her. I figured I was just tired then. That same day I heard the sound of heels again, but when I turned around, nobody was there. I started to think I really was exhausted, and when morning came, there was no woman in red in the parking lot.
I told myself I must have been imagining things, but suddenly there she was, on the road back surrounded by rice fields. She was dressed exactly the same, only this time she was grinning. The only people around in this area were the old folks who worked the fields, so I instinctively grew scared, but again I blamed it on lack of sleep and tried to forget about it.
The next day I sensed something behind me as I worked, so I suddenly turned around, but of course, nothing was there. I grew more and more irritated. It was like I was going crazy. I was more angry than scared by that point. “What the hell?” I muttered, and then clearly heard the sound of footsteps running behind me. Not only that, but they were fast.
My sense of foreboding grew, and I decided to take the next day off. On the way home, she wasn’t in the parking lot, nor was she on the rice field-lined road back. ‘What the hell? She’s not around…’ I thought. However, when I reached a small bridge about 5 or 6 kilometres away, there she was. Her hat covered most of her face, but she was grinning underneath it again. She followed my car with her eyes, and turned her body to face the same direction. I looked at her in the rear-view mirror. She watched me the whole time.
When I thought about it, I realised she was getting closer to my house each time. At this pace she’d reach it by the next day. ‘Shit,’ I thought, and immediately called my mother when I got back. She was good with all things supernatural.
“Yep, you sure are in trouble,” she said. “This is certainly no good. Did you do something?”
“I didn’t do anything!” I said. “Nothing I can remember.”
“Well, you might have picked her up from somewhere. Either way, you gotta deal with this now. I’ll take you to visit my friend’s temple right away.”
We ended up driving three hours that morning to her friend’s temple. I heard her call Dad before we left, and her voice was shaking as she cried. My mother’s a strong woman. I’ve never once seen her cry, and even when she fought with Dad she always came out on top. And yet she was crying. “I’m sorry,” she said. “If worst comes to worst, I’ll go in his place.”
What the hell? Was I gonna die? Go in my place? I asked her about it but she said nothing other than “get in the car.” I was tired from the night shift so Mum drove, but about five minutes after we left home, that woman was there. I was in the passenger’s seat, so it was the first time I clearly saw her. She was wearing the same clothes as always, and that big hat. But, I saw her face.
Her clothes made her look young, but she was clearly older. She looked around 60, her eyes bloodshot and brow covered in wrinkles. She had a terrifying expression on her face, and again she was grinning. I was so scared that I gasped out loud and my mother noticed.
“Don’t look!” she said. “Don’t look at her eyes! Look down!”
Her loud voice shocked me so much that I looked down and closed my eyes. Then I heard something like laughter right next to my ear. I groaned in fear again.
“Don’t look at anything! Don’t listen to anything! Cover your eyes and ears!” my mother told me and then turned the volume on the radio up.
Before I knew it, I was asleep and apparently dreaming. I still remember it clearly, even now. A woman was in the middle of a forest, the grass growing wild, and she said, “Look this way! Look this way!” I was scared and tried to run, but no matter where I went, she called to me. “Look this way!” Then right as she appeared before me, my mother woke me up. We were at the temple, and I’d wet myself.
Tears ran down my face and my nose was snotty, yet I was so scared that I trembled, even though it was the middle of summer. I didn’t have any other pants with me, so I got out of the car as I was and my mother leant me her shoulder as we went inside. For some reason, I was so weak that I couldn’t walk, and when we got inside a monk came to greet us.
“Where did you pick that up?” he said. “When? What were you doing?” He assaulted me with questions. I told him that she was slowly getting closer to my house from work, so he asked me where I worked and where I had last seen her.
“I work in OO and I last saw her in the car, about five minutes from home,” I said. The monk then ran towards the main temple building. I stood there, frozen, no idea what was going on. A different monk came out and told us to come inside. I was pathetically weak, so my mother carried me in. Several monks were gathered before a large statue of Buddha. They told me to sit in the middle of them.
I did as asked and they began chanting. The chants grew more fervent, and suddenly incredible drowsiness swept over me. I was about to pass out when suddenly something whispered in my ear.
“I finally found you.”
Shocked, the moment I opened my eyes the monks hit me on the shoulder with a long pole, I think something they use during training at the temple. Then I passed out.
When I came back to, I’d wet myself again and I was surrounded by water. I was also crying again. I started on a cushion in the middle of the room, but by that point I was lying down in the corner. I tried to sit up, but my body felt heavy, and everything hurt so bad that I couldn’t. The monks helped me up and sat me down in the middle of the room again. They poured sake over my head, and this time a single monk stood before me, chanting.
When he was done, my body felt somewhat lighter. I was still unable to walk, however, so two monks helped me to the bath and stayed with me. When I had finally calmed down, my mother came in crying and hugged me. “Oh, thank god! Thank god!”
Then the monk told me everything. It’s rather long, so I’ll cut most of it out. The woman I saw was apparently the local shinigami. Originally, she summoned the dead during Obon, and the locals held a festival for her during July, which is when she came to visit this world. The festival was a sign for her to come and take someone back with her, but I had apparently seen her before the festival. The reason she appeared beforehand was because somebody was trying to get her to take someone from this world in exchange for bringing someone back from that world. That needed a sacrifice using a cursed spirit, or something like that. Sorry if it’s all a bit difficult to understand.
Basically, someone was praying persistently to that god in order to resurrect a dead person, and she was trying to take me in exchange. The reason my mother was crying was because she was born in the same area I worked, so she knew the story. It was a taboo subject, however, and when she talked about “going in my place,” in a worst case scenario, she was prepared to become the sacrifice instead of me.
That god is worshipped on the mountain behind my work, but the area is forbidden to enter (people said that nothing good ever came of praying to her). I spent about a week at the temple after that, barely able to move, and then when I got home I was finally able to walk a little with a cane and handrails. I could barely even use chopsticks.
My mother explained to work what happened for me, and they told me to take some time off, fully paid. The monk said if I hadn’t recovered by Obon, then I never would. I want him to be lying, but I think he’s telling the truth.
When I think about that woman, I’m still terrified. I keep the charm the monk gave me with me at all times.