Mountaintop Kunekune

About 20 years ago, when I was just a kid, maybe in kindergarten, I saw Kunekune.

My father, younger brother, and myself sometimes went up into the mountains to have a picnic. The mountain was right nearby, but it wasn’t our property so we had to sneak in, haha.

Anyway, I didn’t really like moving around a lot, so I didn’t want to go, but my dad bought me a drink on the way. I got cola while my younger brother got coffee-flavoured milk. That was the only reason we went along.

On our way up the mountain, our father pointed out things like a tengu’s nose, and a kitsune (in reality, a red fruit). We had lots of fun. Up until this point I remember clearly, but after that, our father disappeared. It was just me and my younger brother.

With our father missing we were anxious, but I grabbed my brother’s hand and pulled him towards the top of the mountain, crying that our father had to have gone on ahead of us.

“Maa-kun, what’s that?” My brother pointed to something about 100 metres ahead. Something grey swaying side to side between the trees. We’d climbed this mountain numerous times but never seen anything like that before. Its legs wriggled. I couldn’t see its face.

Then I remembered something. For my birthday, my dad had bought me a pair of binoculars. They were in my bag. I really wanted to know what that thing was, so I put my bag down and took the binoculars out.

“Let me see, let me see!” my brother said, but I told him “later” and peered at the thing through my binoculars. It was something I couldn’t have imagined even in my wildest dreams.

For one, maybe two minutes I couldn’t tear my eyes off the thing, even though I didn’t want to look at it anymore. If my brother hadn’t kept calling out my name, what would have happened to me, staring at that thing all alone? I think I might have gone mad.

All I can say is this. It wasn’t dancing.

It was in pain.

I saw its face. There were lots of faces. Men, women, boys, girls, old men, old women, it changed over and over, kind of like a slide changing at one second intervals.

Yet every single one of them was in pain.

I threw my bag, grabbed my brother and ran back down the hill. We tripped numerous times, but I was far, far more scared of that thing than the pain. We ran into an old guy on the way, but all I could think about was getting off the mountain.

After several minutes I saw the familiar shrine gate. The exit. At that very moment, a voice behind us called out.

It was our dad, and for some reason he was shouting. We ran over to him, crying, and I tried my best to tell him about the wriggling thing I saw between the trees, but I wasn’t able to.

According to him, he’d looked away for just a moment and we disappeared. Apparently we’d taken off without him.

I’ve have been back to that mountain ever since that day. I feel like I might see that thing again.

Finally, let me say just one thing. The thing people call “Kunekune” really does exist.

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